Spotlight on Mediator Nigel Wright, Part 1
Nigel Wright recently joined Miles Mediation and Arbitration as a mediator and arbitrator in its Atlanta office. With an unusual yet extensive background, Nigel brings his expertise in handling mediations and international arbitrations to the Miles Mediation & Arbitration panel. His successful mediations and arbitrations span jurisdictions worldwide, covering a range of disputes from large scale complex commercial litigation to mass tort personal injury claims.
Originally from the UK, Nigel started his career handling international aviation liability work, commercial litigation, and international arbitration matters, at a time when ADR was a relatively new concept in the UK.
Nigel’s work handling aviation claims afforded him the opportunity to fly all over the world handling every manner of claims brought against the airline industry and aviation manufacturers, as well as claims brought on their behalf. He handled, litigated and negotiated the settlement of claims in over 50 countries including most of Europe, Russia, Singapore, India, the Middle East, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, which gave him tremendous experience negotiating successfully with different cultures. This experience would prove to be very valuable later on in his career.
After practicing for just five years, at the world’s leading aviation law firm, Nigel was rewarded for his efforts with a partnership at his firm. His reputation as a detail-oriented lawyer didn’t go unnoticed, and he was approached by an AM 100 firm, DLA Piper, to assist them in setting up a new aviation department. It was an opportunity to create a new practice area within that firm and one that Nigel could not refuse. Nigel joined the firm, and with this, his practice grew geographically to include handling claims in Latin America.
During his work in Latin America, Nigel met a number of impressive attorneys, including an attorney from Ecuador with whom he worked closely on a number of matters in the region. This attorney was a member of an arbitration and mediation center in Quito, set up in part with US Aid money to service the needs of US companies operating in the country. (These mediation and arbitration centers can be found throughout Latin America and have an unrivaled reputation for fairness and ethical standards). He opened Nigel’s eyes to the significant advantages of mediating complex cases, as opposed to seeking to resolve those matters through direct lawyer to lawyer negotiations, litigating or arbitration proceedings. Together they used the mediation center to resolve, literally, hundreds of fatal aircraft accident and serious personal injury cases over the years. Nigel adopted this approach, not just in Ecuador, but throughout the whole of Latin America and even mediated any international claims arising from those fatal accidents in the claimants’ home countries, where appropriate. Nigel worked extensively in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala, Panama, and Honduras.
Nigel and his Ecuadorian confrère attributed their success to most of the claimants not really having trust in the court system or even their lawyers. “Because unfortunately,” Nigel grins, “people didn’t have confidence in the legal system or in some cases their advisors, whereas with mediation, they actually get to see and hear what was going on and participate. They also got to hear directly what the settlement offers were and what the responsible party had to say.”
“In some cases, there were liability or coverage issues, and sometimes there were limits put on the amounts available for compensation, under either domestic or international law. In mediation, however, parties can reach an agreement and get certainty and achieve closure,” Nigel explains. This experience is how Nigel ended up doing so many mediations, while working in private practice.
During Nigel’s seven years at DLA Piper in London, he qualified as a New York attorney and again found himself approached by an international firm (this one was a forerunner to the AM 100 law firm Locke Lord) and asked to establish an international aviation practice in the US. Nigel’s wife is from Atlanta and it was an easy decision to accept the offer and for the family to come home to Atlanta. After another Bar exam, this time for the Georgia Bar, Nigel established his practice and expanded its scope nationally to include all classes of insurance coverage and litigation – in each case seeking to resolve disputes through mediation, wherever appropriate.
As would become a pattern in his career, Nigel’s experience and authority resolving cases caught the eye of the senior management of one of the biggest specialty insurance companies. The company had not felt comfortable about their overall net exposure and had already brought in a senior-level partner as general counsel for litigation to seek to manage that exposure. The general counsel for litigation, who was planning on retiring in a few year’s time, approached Nigel with a succession plan for Nigel to take over his worldwide role managing the companies’ most significant claims, which were primarily reputational and often involved extra-contractual claims, usually in the US. Nigel had been at Locke Lord as a senior equity partner, for over nine years at this time, and was external counsel handling the specialty company’s coverage disputes.
The new role within the specialty insurance company was to address its large cases, many of which the company felt had dragged on for years. “This cost the company a lot, because,” Nigel explains, “the reserves are always on the books, and things can be over-reserved as often as they can be under-reserved.” A succession plan was designed for Nigel to take over the position after three years at the company. While Nigel was preparing to take over, he was given responsibility for those claims in North America. Nigel would travel throughout the US and Canada and resolve as many of those claims as possible, through mediation. This proved to be a particularly successful approach for the extra-contractual and bad faith claims. “But it could be anything,” Nigel shares. He resolved claims including, but not limited to, financial lines, aviation, casualty, construction defect, cyber, marine, energy, professional indemnity, and fine art. In this role, Nigel mediated one of the largest construction defect cases there has ever been.
During a period where Nigel was personally handing over 200 million in net exposure to the company, the insurance company was purchased by another insurance company. As a result, he transitioned to managing the specialty lines claims teams, which included; aviation, crisis management (product recall, K&R (kidnapping & ransom), crime, active shooter), Fine Art and Specie, Equine and Livestock, Political Risk and Surety. Accident and Health was added and the responsibilities grew to what is known as Global Lines. Nigel had set his mind on doing this for three to four years while he figured out what he wanted to do “when he grew up.”
When this second company was itself purchased, Nigel grew up sooner than expected, joining two former partners who had an established firm handling Bermuda Form matters which are essentially matters addressing coverage and which are subject to New York law and English arbitration procedure. Nigel joined them, arbitrating the English (UK) procedure cases. Before he came on board, the firm was losing out on money whenever they had a UK arbitration as they had to hire a UK solicitor externally, with Nigel on board, they were able to keep all aspects of cases in house.
They are a small firm doing very big cases, including many of the largest cases currently in the public domain. Many large household names insure their liability in the Bermuda market. “These companies are often sued in class action matters and may be found liable in court or settle out. The exposure can be billions, as can the awards. The companies then turn to their insurers asking them to please pay up. Then the insurers turn around and ask their lawyers, “do we have to pay?” Nigel shares it has been known that, on occasion, insurers and their insureds do not always agree on the “who knew what when triggering coverage’. When they don’t agree, they go to arbitration. The firm was a perfect fit for Nigel’s expertise.
ABOUT NIGEL WRIGHT
As a mediator and arbitrator at Miles, Nigel Wright handles extensive personal injury claims in disputes in over 50 countries and complex claims (including class actions) for A&H, Aviation, Casualty, Commercial Property, Construction defect, Crisis Management, Cybersecurity, D&O, E&O, Energy and Marine, Environmental, Financial Lines, Insurance coverage, IP, Pharma, Product defect, Professional Liability, Political Risk, and Surety.